Game Review - 'Bastion'
Bastion is a video game that has received already received a fair amount of praise – all of which, I can honestly say, it most definitely deserves. It is a remarkable achievement in a variety of ways, not the least of which being that it is only the first title released by Supergiant Games – an independent game design company made up of only a handful of people.
Bastion is an action RPG, at heart – similar in style and substance to something like the Diablo series, or more recently, Torchlight. If you are at all familiar with those games, then you will already have some idea of what to expect. It tells the story of a world torn apart by a mysterious event known only as the Calamity, and the small handful of survivors that gather at the titular Bastion – a place intended to serve as a safe haven for the people in times of trouble. You take on the role of a young man of unspecified age, known only as the Kid, and it is your job to head out in search of the crystals which serve as a power source for the Bastion – restoring it and bringing it to life. Early on, the plot seems intended to serve as little more than an excuse to send the Kid out into the wild – though, admittedly, this would have been enough for many, given the quality of the game-play on offer. However, as you progress, the game begins to reveal a surprising amount of depth – gradually revealing the tension between two kingdoms, Caelondia and Ura, and how this may have led to the Calamity, and also in revealing something of the lives of the survivors themselves.
It is in these character moments that the game truly shines. While the Kid remains largely silent, save for the occasional grunt, the duty of telling the tale falls onto the shoulders of Rucks, a strange old man with a voice like some grizzled cowboy from the Old West, who serves as the games narrator. Much has already been said about the narration, and what it adds to the game – praise that is, once again, highly deserved. Without the narration, Bastion would be a fun and frantic action game that was enjoyed while it lasted, though quickly forgotten. With it, though, Bastion becomes an occasionally endearingly amusing, and occasionally sombre, experience that will likely linger with you for some time after completion. It is strange to think that the addition of a single voice could have so much impact on the feel of the game, but that seems to be just the case here – the character of Rucks quickly comes to form the heart and soul of the experience, whether he's commenting on the Kid's action through the game, or passing on the tales of other survivors you will meet along the way.
Graphically speaking, the game is beautiful, with deceptively simple cartoon style that forms an unusual contrast with the surprisingly dark subject matter. The game is bright and cheerful throughout, with a wide variety of colourful and creatively designed enemies to fight your way through. And, the simple gimmick of having the broken world reform under the Kid's feet as he makes his way through a level never fails to be an impressive sight. Along with the beautiful presentation of the game is the music – an odd blend of Western inspired music with something more modern and unique, it manages to enhance the sense of exploring a unique and fascinating world. Seriously, go and listen for yourself.
Game play is designed to be fast-paced and frantic, with even the longest level feeling like it is over in moments. This is arguably to the game's overall benefit, though, as there is no point where you feel like the action has been padded out just to increase the length of the game. The weaponry available to the Kid over the course of the game covers all possible play-styles, an assortment of melee and ranged weapons, both slow and powerful, or light and fast. You will quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the variety of choice available to you, and the fact that you can only carry two at once practically demands experimentation.
In all honesty, I can't think of a single thing about this game that I disliked. I could say that it was too short, coming in at only five hours or so – though, arguably, it was as long as it needed to be, and it would have spoiled the experience somewhat if it had been drawn out any longer. I could point out my disappointment at the fact that, besides the narration given by Rucks, the characters are mostly silent – though, I still found myself feeling more attached to these silent characters, based on second-hand information given by Rucks, then I have with characters in many games I've played in the past. The constant stream of narration may also feel intrusive to some players though once again, not for me, and I can't honestly list it as a negative.
Bastion can be purchased over Xbox Live, or on PC through Steam here.
Also, should you be interested, the original soundtrack can be purchased from Amazon.
© 2012 Dallas Matier
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